Programme themes

A satire on HE
A satire on HE

Higher education and its practices are in a quandary, if not a crisis. The four themes of our conference represent ways of working together: learning and teaching routes through and/or towards evaluations and resolutions, if not solutions for some of the quandaries raised in this satire. We are particularly interested in evaluation criteria for effective learning development through:

  • Staff and student collaboration
  • Peer projects
  • Transnational partnerships and networks: crossing boundaries and borders
  • Inclusive and diverse practices.

Staff and student collaboration

Staff and student collaboration can take place on many levels. Formal collaborations may include: student representation on committees or course design teams, research and teaching assistance, or public outreach (student ambassadors). Informal collaboration may take place in corridor conversations, university societies and co-curricular activity or at the social, community and neighbourhood level. Many universities, including Brookes, embed student collaboration in academic policy and practice, driven in part by Chickering and Gamson’s first two principles of good practice: staff-student contact and student-student collaboration. In this theme we seek evidence from practice of staff-student collaborations on any initiative aimed at improving the learning experience for all.

Peer projects

Our second theme, peer projects takes the second principle, student-student collaboration, and expands it to embrace all forms of peer learning practice. Peer practices imply some forms of democratic egalitarianism: reduced hierarchies, collective self-determination, open discussion, accordance with agreed rules; and to each a sufficient share of the commonwealth, material or intellectual, to live free and participate.

Transnational partnerships and networks: crossing boundaries and borders

Peer projects, understood most widely suggest international or transnational collaboration. Where do tertiary institutions sit with respect to wider networks? Where are the boundaries and borders? The not-so-United Kingdom has borders of varying porosity between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, not to mention Europe and the rest of the world with respect to higher, further and continuing education. How do we work together across borders? What do we do when enforced borders meet enforced migration? To what extent should a university be an open conduit for migration or an agency of enforcement? Could we (and, who are we?) teach physics in Britain without academics from Asia? Can we make ourselves more open to other educational cultures and their practices even while Britain is redefining itself as a frontier nation. These borders and boundaries are particularly important in the framing of policies undergirded by reliablist and “post-truth” epistemologies. Can we share, discover and create knowledge as well as goods and services that are truly transnational?.

Inclusive and diverse practices

Inclusivity and diversity are still the future for education in addressing understandings of identity and community at individual and collective levels. We welcome presentations and workshops that evidence and deepen our understandings of difference and inclusion. We suggest inevitably there will be challenges of homophily and exclusivity, direct and indirect discrimination and unconscious bias. These may cause “wounds” and leave “scars” from the journey. Questioning diversity practice challenges both identity and relational politics at personal, institutional and trans-national levels. Diversity and inclusion are directly related to that most sensitive part of reflective academic practice: the embodied self and feelings; the visceral sensitivity of a human in the world. We often bracket this out of professional life, and then feign surprise when crimes of passion (personal or political) strike close to home – or work.

Learning and teaching routes through: the programme transformed

As we hope, the descriptive texts above suggest the conference themes are related in some sort of a metaphorical, ascending spiral. But this atomised and serialist construction of education also affords us opportunity for hierarchical positioning: “higher” education. Barriers are raised to the “next step”. Or maybe the next step is just that much higher, deeper, harder? It may not be simply exclusivity to restrict and regulate some practices: surgery may be an obvious domain. The atomist and serialist view also affords quantification of phenomena. We can count large numbers of people, events or things and use statistical methods to model and build algorithms of their relationships. And we can use such algorithms as instruments of social control.